Encountering God in Work

2-man-in-his-garden-gregg-caudell

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

(Genesis 2:15)

The Lord placed Adam in the garden to work. Where has God placed you? What has he placed you there to do? The Lord is the author of our life, and he places us in situations and gives us work for our good. Our task is one of obedience and surrender.

“The present moment is like a desert in which simple souls see and rejoice only in God, being solely concerned to do what he asks of them. All the rest is left behind, forgotten and surrendered to him.”

-Jean-Pierre de Caussade

We don’t have to encounter God in formal worship, prayer or bible study alone. We can encounter him within our work. Whatever task is put before us, we can be assured it has been put before us by the Lord, and we should give it our full ‘reverent attention’. It’s about trust and surrender; in faith we let go of the past and the future and just attend to the work we have been given in the present moment. We should be fully present to the work, without letting our minds pull us away to other things.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

(Colossians 3:23-24)

We are content with the work the Lord has put before us, and we serve him. To “work at it with all your heart” means to channel all your attention, thoughts, feelings and ability into the work at hand, not being distracted by other things, either physical or mental.

We are reverent of the present moment, because we know that God speaks to us through our life, and our life is in this present moment. We don’t want to miss out on what God might be showing or teaching us.

The Struggle

I’ve always struggled with myself. I have this idea in my mind of who I should be and how I should behave. I think this is partially put upon me by society and those around me, but also by myself. There is always a struggle there, a constant correcting and an attempted controlling of myself, to make me conform to my desired image of me. If I am irritated, I will try not to be, to push it down or turn it good.

The problem is that I’m quite incapable of it, so there is the inevitable post-game of self-criticism. Sometimes I think I’ve had small success, but the ‘transformations’ if you could call them that, are superficial and short-lived. It’s like I’m fighting against my nature, or constantly mopping up the water without turning the taps off. As the saying goes, “the heart wants what the heart wants”; my efforts to change myself, or ‘stop the water’, are in vain, as long as the taps of the heart are still pouring out.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
(Matthew 15:19 NIV)

I’ve heard it said that “only God can change a heart”, and I’ve found this to be quite true from my own experience, when it comes to deep, lasting change.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
(Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)

Jesus can and does change my heart, and I believe he does so through the practice of ‘confession’.

Now, I’m not talking about confessing my sins in order to be saved. When he died as a living sacrifice on the cross, he took upon himself the consequences of all our sins, or evil thoughts or deeds, so we could be brought close to Him who is purity. He made the way for me, so all I had to do was accept him into my life, put my trust in him and enter into a relationship with him.

My relationship with Jesus isn’t dependant upon how good or bad, or perfect or imperfect I am, it depends on how good and perfect he is! It’s not about what I’ve done it’s about what he did! My hope is in him, not in myself.

So the Lord is good and will keep me, but he also wants to change my heart, so I can live free and in joy. This is where ‘confession’ comes in. This is not just apologising to God, it’s a deep and all-encompassing practice. It’s a total U-turn in the way I’ve lived my life. Confession means no longer attempting to correct or control myself, by my own power, but instead handing it over to God, surrendering the task of fixing myself over to Him who can actually get it done!

When I am irritated, I no longer try to push it down, pretend it’s not there or struggle to change myself, instead I turn my focus to God, I acknowledge and allow the irritation to be present, and I simply say to God, “I confess to you, Lord, I am irritated. Come, look at this, Lord, I’m not hiding anything from you.”

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:10‭-‬14 NIV)

There’s something powerful and transforming in this simple act. There’s something about confessing, speaking things out, bringing things up into the light. This is how God works in us. When you are in a relationship with Jesus, he will arrange situations in your life that will bring up the ugly in you that you thought you had buried and were done with. He wants openness and honesty, especially honesty with ourselves, as it’s in the light where everything can be seen for what it truly is and be therefore transformed.

For the times when I really understand this, I have a great sense of peace and ease about myself. It’s such a relief to know the weight of my imperfections doesn’t need to be carried on my own back, because He carries them. I can let go. I no longer have to struggle with myself all the time, trying to be perfect, because my hope is not in myself, it’s in Him.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
(Psalms 55:22 NIV)

Is it all just matter, or do we actually matter?

If we think good and bad are just “made up” in our minds, then that means that the reality is that nothing really objectively matters. So whether something is evil or not could be anyone’s guess.

But deep down we know some things are actually bad or actually good. Kindness is good, for example, caring for each other is good. We know that. If it was anyone’s guess, then anyone could make a fair case that being kind was evil, and it’d be just as valid.

If the world is all just matter, then nothing really “matters” anyway. The fact that we see evil and hate it is because deep down we know there is more to life than just matter. We are more than that. I don’t have all the answers, but I know someone who does.

If you seek the one who made you, who held you gently in his hands and breathed life into you, he will show you that you do matter and you do have purpose. We are not just matter. Everything matters.

Reminders, Part 1

beside still waters

I still get afraid and anxious sometimes. No matter how many miracles the Lord does in my life, no matter how many times he comes through for me without fail, when there is a new challenge, I always seems to forget how faithful he is. So I thought I would write about all the times, I can currently remember, where he has come through for me and shown me his kindness and faithfulness. Then, perhaps next time I am afraid, I can look back at this entry and be reminded of his goodness.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

-Isaiah 43:1

When I was at my absolute lowest, deeply depressed and apathetic, I went for a slow walk into town, and I came across a table he had prepared for me. I spoke to a pastor and his wife, and was reintroduced to His love. Their church family took me in and invited me to a get-together they were having, in someone’s house, not long after. I felt out of place, like a zombie hanging out with humans, but I felt loved and accepted as if no one even noticed I was a zombie. Like this, love spoke to me in a way that logic or reason never could have. In my case, it wasn’t words that made the man a Christian, it was love.

One time in church, I was feeling very self-conscious and out of place, and we were asked to talk with someone nearby us. I was sat alone, while others were beginning to speak to each other, and so I felt increasingly nervous and embarrassed; a little frozen in my seat. But then the pastor noticed me, and with a look of urgency in his eyes, he moved towards me as if everything else around him had suddenly faded away, scaled a chair in front of me and sat beside me. Some moments in this life are like small reflections of the character of God, and this was one of them. For the Lord doesn’t just speak words, he speaks moments too.

I was at a Christian conference, where I was camping on-site and volunteering on the catering team. It was hard work at first, but then I began to love it. It was the team most of all, and in particular a man I met there who would become a friend for life. He made everyone around him smile and laugh, with his terrible jokes and loud singing. From him I learned of the joy of the Lord, of the freedom in laughter, and of the goodness in serving.

I had been very lonely for most of my life. I wanted to meet someone really special, someone I could marry, someone that was made for me. I never thought I would find this woman, and so, for too long a time, I had settled for a relationship that just wasn’t right for either of us. I took a chance and ended it, and moved away, but now I was very lonely again. But in my tent, in the heavy rain, I gave the Lord a chance. I said to myself, “I will pray with all my heart, with everything I’ve got.” And I did. Then, about a week later, I met her.

The night before I was due to be baptised, I was about to smoke weed. I had been smoking it on and off for years, for long periods, and had currently been smoking it for months. I said out loud to God, “I do want to get baptised, but also I’m not perfect, so it’s okay that I don’t give everything up straight away. This will just take some time, and I need to be kind to myself too.” So I finished rolling the joint, and just as I was about to smoke it, I heard a sound so loud it shook me to my core. I thought a missile had come down. Lightning had struck the lamppost, just feet from my window, and it had even melted my wifi box. I was shaking. Ridiculously, and in fear, I still smoked the joint, but it was the last one I ever had.

At my baptism, I was pretty nervous as I had to give a short speech. I had prepared some notes, but my mind still felt blank and awkward, as I sat in my seat, waiting to be called up. But then, as I was called, the moment my feet touched the ground as I stood up, I felt all fear drain away, and a wave of peace and confidence wash over me. I didn’t even look at my notes, but just spoke from my heart and all the words came and I felt alive.

I feel this post is going to go on forever, so I’ll stop for now, and do a part 2 soon!